Collective Nouns—Sometimes Singular, Sometimes Plural
- On March 17, 2020
I saw an ad for a health plan the other day that read, Our large selection of doctors is there for you.
If that doesn’t sound right to your ear, it’s because it’s not. The verb is should be are, as in, Our large selection of doctors are there for you.
In this example, selection is a collective noun. Collective nouns, which refer to groups of things or people, can take either singular or plural verb forms, depending on what you want to stress. In this case, you want to stress the doctors themselves, not the selection.
Here’s a hint to help you make the correct choice. If the noun is followed by the word of, chances are you should go with the plural form of the verb.
Here’s another example (correctly rendered), taken from an annual report I recently edited: Our portfolio of innovative products help millions of patients live better and longer lives.
The word of is a tip-off, but so too is the message: the products are the lifesavers, not the portfolio.